How significant was popular media in the progression of African-American Civil Rights from 1830-1969?

Topics: African American, Slavery, Slavery in the United States Pages: 15 (5078 words) Published: November 11, 2013
How significant was popular media in the progression of African-American Civil Rights from 1830-1969?

Jimi Hendrix stated that 'music doesn't lie - if there is something to be changed in this world then it can only happen through music ’1 and perhaps this attitude towards music is the starting point for my argument on the impact it had on the Civil Rights Movement. Billy Joel called it 'an explosive expression of humanity,'2 whilst Beethoven stated it to have 'higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy'.3 Whatever the belief, music has always been known for its profound ability to affect human beings. Whether that is to cause emotions of happiness or of sorrow, to motivate them, to allow them understanding of one another, music has the power to connect people in ways few other methods of entertainment have been able to achieve. During this essay, I aim to prove how crucial it was that this power was used to progress Civil Rights. Additionally, to give this study depth, I aim to look at music as part of a much larger genre – that is, 'popular media'. Professor of music Philip Tagg claimed that 'black music' is much more common than 'white music’ - arguing that ‘such terms are relative to the hegemony of the culture of their user. They need identification cards, we don’t’.4 Perhaps this viewpoint is one which can explain how significant music has always been in African American culture; a vital part, not simply an addition. Drawing on traditional work songs, black slaves began performing a wide variety of Negro spirituals and other Christian music. 5 Through their skills and talents in this field, African American people were able to hold on to, and pass on, a fairly large and important piece of their cultural identity, and in addition retain an aspect of their humanity. One supporting source states how ‘because slaves were proscribed from reading or writing, American slaves adopted a strong oral tradition-passing down songs, prayers, laments, and stories through music and storytelling.’6 Slaves used music and storytelling as a means of entertainment, sanity and cultural identity. This was highly important in the advancement of civil rights, as it prevented slaves from becoming entirely the property of their masters, and fought against the movements towards domination and oppression, as well as providing them with hope for a better future. However, this is in contrast to the opinion from historian Paul Levengood who claims 'slaves were by their owners' design', thus suggesting that slaves had their entire identity removed, not just parts of it. What is believed by some, that music helped slaves retain their cultural identity and so provided a platform from which to unite in protest for civil rights, has been significantly challenged. Historian Junius P Rodriguez supports this opinion as he states that 'whether a slave was a Muslim or had practised an indigenous African animist faith, planters in the Americas believed that they had to be stripped of that cultural identity.'7 This source once again suggests that slaves had their identity completely stripped and goes on to explain that 'another task performed on the breaking plantation was to discourage the slave from retaining African cultural values. Slaves had to be indoctrinated into the culture of slavery, and in doing so they had to lose all aspects of their African identity.'8 Most certainly, all aspects of their identity would include their most favoured traditions such as music and song, and Rodriguez explains that 'African languages and other traditions were also stripped'.9 The idea of a 'culture of slavery' suggests instead a reinvention of the slave altogether, and indeed a move to make them 'of their owners' design'. Therefore, it is difficult to judge whether slave songs and 'traditions' were in reality quite so 'traditional' as it is likely they were significantly altered from their archetypal origin in order to accommodate changing circumstances,...

Bibliography: Beito, David T & Linda Royster Beito Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard 's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009
Betts, Donnie The Path to Freedom, BBC Radio 4, Documentary
Dunning, John On The Air: The Encyclopaedia of Old Time Radio, Oxford University Press 1998
Field, Ron Civil Rights in America, 1865-1980 Cambridge University Press, 20 Jun 2002
JR, Henry Louis Gates and Nellie Y. McKay, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Norton Second Edition 2004
Levitt, Stephen D & Stephen J Dubner Freakonomics, Revised Edition, 2005
Lionel Ritchie The Johnathon Ross Show, ITV, 03-03-2012
Longfellow, H.W A Pilgrimage to the Old World by an American, Volume I, London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, 1835
Miles, Barry Many Years From Now, London: Seeker & Warbrg, 1997
Mountain, Alan Slaves of the Western Cape, New Africa Books, 2004
Nelson, Jack The Civil Rights Movement: A Press Perspective, Human Rights Magazine, Fall 2001, Vol. 28 Issue 4
Pegg, Bruce, Routledge Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life And Hard Times Of Chuck Berry, 2002
Perloff, Richard M The Press and Lynchings of African American, Journal of Black Studies, January 2000 pp. 315-330
Rodrigues, Junius P Slavery in the United States: A Social, Political, And Historical Encyclopedia, Volume 2 , ABC-CLIO, 2007
Schlatter, Evelyn A, Aryan Cowboys, White Supremacists and the Search for a New Frontier, 1970-200, University of Texas Press, 2006
Washington, Booker T, Solomon Northup, Frederick Douglas A Will to be Free, Vol
Communication: The Human Imperative (1997–1998), TV Series
Websites (URL)
Charles A. Riccio Jr., The Downfall of the Klan in the 1920s [accessed 22 Apr 2013]
Charmaine Mutucumarana, Duke University, 2011-2012 [accessed 16 Apr 2013]
J. Fred MacDonald, Richard Durham and his Destination Freedom, 2009 [accessed 16 Apr 2013]
Licensed under Creative Commons Attributions [accessed 28 Mar 2013]
Managed Hosting by NG Communications [accessed 09 Mar 2013]
Margaret Niehas-Sauter, 2001/2002 [accessed 16 Apr 2013]
No Credits Production, Inc 2001 [accessed 2 Apr 2013]
Philip Tagg ‘Open Letter about Black Music, African-American Music And European Music’, Popular Music (Cambridge University Press 1989) vol
SearchQuotes TM [accessed 08 Mar 2013]
Tiffany Connors, 1998-2013 HowStuffWorks TM [accessed 09 Mar 2013]
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • African American Perspective from 1959 Essay
  • Racism: African American and Civil Rights Essay
  • African Americans: Civil Rights and Equality Essay
  • Essay on African American History
  • Essay on African American and Their Rights
  • African American Male stereotype Essay
  • How Significant Was Lyndon B Johnson in Improving Civil Rights for African Americans? Essay
  • African American Civil Rights Movement Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free
Jerry Hausner | The Equalizer 2 (2018) | The.Toymaker.2017.BRRip.XviD.MP3-XVID